“I believe there is a problem with climates, climate change in the atmosphere… and so, at the end of the day, if we can find these breakthroughs to help us have a cleaner environment, I’m all for it,” Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican, said to a group of donors last week.
Two important highlights here. First of all, it’s a pleasure to see a policy leader call out the need to address climate change at a time when some activists are even reluctant to publicly use so-called catch phrases like “clean energy” for fear of being politically polarizing. Secondly, Gov. Kasich is just the latest to articulate a point that ITIF has been making for years: clean energy innovation – and innovation policy in general – should not be a partisan issue. He joins the diverse ranks of a coalition that includes the like of technologist Nathan Myrhvold, economist Robert Solow, and business leader Bill Gates, among others.
Energy innovation is crucial to not only aggressively mitigating climate change, but also ensuring the United States’ long-term competitiveness. Surely the importance of the latter issue bridges the partisan divide. Furthermore, popular support certainly exists for energy innovation, with a recent Pew poll indicating majority support across party lines for “more federal funding for research on wind, solar, and hydrogen technology” – a key aspect of a comprehensive national energy innovation agenda.
And it’s no wonder this popular support exists: Government involvement in fostering breakthrough technologies is a hallowed American tradition. As recent reports by the Breakthrough Institute and ITIF have shown, government support in partnership with the private sector has been critical to developing everything from nuclear power to rocketry and the Internet and yes, even to natural gas fracking. The path to developing clean energy innovations is no different and whether the government should play a role simply should not be a matter of political debate. The real question is how best to do it.
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